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Sher: We filed the complaint with the Justice and Education Departments because once Felber and Maissy graduated, we lost the ability to effect changes to correct the hostile environment. In resolving the lawsuit, the university agreed to issue regulations regarding the use of fake looking weapons and allowing ingress and egress on campus during demonstrations. These are important issues during the infamous “Apartheid Week”, where anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish activists resort to intimidation and harassment. It is also important to understand that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were not pursuing the case to collect money. They wanted to correct an intolerable situation. In our complaint to Justice, it is alleged that Jewish students have been subjected to a pervasive hostile environment, which is impermissible under Title VI.
FB: What are the main allegations in your complaint to Justice?
Sher: Central to our complaint are the on-campus activities during “Apartheid Week,” which is nothing short of a modern day version of the “Passion Play,” the notorious anti-Semitic German theatrical performance which portrays Jews as bloodthirsty and treacherous villains. During Berkeley’s Passion Play, student activists from the Muslim Student Association and Students for Justice in Palestine – both officially registered student organizations which receive funding from the university and operate with the blessing of school officials - resort to depictions of Jews which are clearly racist and anti-Semitic. Moreover, they have been authorized by the University to carry realistic looking assault weapons which they brandish as they interrogate innocent students on campus about their religious and ethnic backgrounds. All this in an effort to convey a portrayal that “all” Jews are blood-thirsty barbarians. Regrettably, the university has effectively put its imprimatur on this despicable behavior.
FP:Is there precedent for such action by the Justice Department?
Sher: There is. Recently the federal government undertook an in-depth inquiry into a hostile racist environment at U.C. San Diego. That investigation was precipitated by the offensive “Compton Cookout” of February 2010, during Black History Month. During that off-campus event, African Americans were portrayed in a racist and offensive stereotype. As a result of its intervention, earlier this year the Justice Department announced a Resolution Agreement with U.C. San Diego. The school is now subject to a series of strict reporting and educational requirements designed to eliminate the impermissible behavior. Schools which violate Title VI run the risk of forfeiting federal funds.
FP:Is the situation at San Diego comparable to that at Berkeley?
Sher: Like the “Compton Cookout” at San Diego, the BerkeleyApartheid Week/Passion Play is patently offensive and racist. Portraying Jews in such a fashion is as odious as the use of the “N” word and other similar racist and sexist stereotypes. Indeed, the Berkeley situation presents an even stronger case than that in San Diego, inasmuch as the offensive activities of Apartheid Week occurred on campus by registered student organizations with the permission and effective approval of University officials; the “Compton Cookout,” by comparison, was off campus with no official University involvement.
Jewish students at Berkeley should be entitled to the same protection and relief as were the African American students at San Diego.
I would also add that when the Republican student organization on the Berkeley campus sold baked goods at different prices as a demonstration against affirmative action, i.e. black students could buy a cup cake for 5 cents while the same cup cake cost a white student 50 cents, the University made a public statement that this was offensive.
When a fraternity at UC San Diego asked students to come dressed to a party as their favorite “nigga,” the University held town meetings stating that was offensive. At a world class University like Yale, when a fraternity made pledges chant, “NO means Yes” and “Yes Means Anal,” Yale censored the fraternity. Yet at Berkeley, when students are allowed to dress and parade as Jews, and to carry realistic looking assault weapons and brutalize students, the University is silent.
It is incumbent upon the Justice Department to require Berkeley to remedy this intolerable situation.
FP: Neal Sher, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
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